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10 Things That Being A Pilot Taught Me About Life

I became a private pilot in 2015. Instrument pilot in 2018 and then Commercial in 2020. When I started training, I was only 24. I didn't know much. I still don't know anything. However, I do think that getting my pilot's license helped me in numerous areas of my life. Maybe this is just mental-masturbation. Maybe it's real. Who knows. But here goes.

    1. It takes a lot of mistakes to create a catastrophe.

    Accidents occur due to a chain of events. Believe it or not, most of your airline pilots will probably make one or two mistakes throughout their flight. Maybe they will forget a radio call. Maybe they will plug in the wrong waypoint in their GPS. One or two mistakes won't create a catastrophe, but when you stack them up; it can. How do mistakes stack up? Usually it's when you rush. So what's the lesson here? Don't rush. Slow down.

    Oh, and if it's okay to make mistakes when flying a plane. It's okay to make mistakes in life. Don't beat yourself up over the tiny mistakes. Learn and be gentle with yourself as you do.

    2. You're in command.

    You take on the responsibility. Own it. You're making decisions. Own them. You're responsible for the safety of your vessel, just as you're now responsible for the results in your life. Be good with having that authority. Be kind to yourself.

    3. Trust your instruments and indicators.

    In instrument flying, there's a common disconnect between what your body might be telling you and what your instruments might be telling you. In this case, you want to trust your instruments. If you trust your bodily sensations, you might die.

    In life, sometimes you feel like you're doing a lot worse than you are. Maybe you just landed a great job, but you're scared shitless. Maybe you feel like an imposter. Trust your instruments. You got the job. I'm not saying discard your instincts or feelings, but see what they are pointing towards. Sometimes, it's just the old memories being rereleased and felt again. So feel them, and then let them go.

    4. Over-communicate.

    This applies to remote work and in general when collaborating on a project. This also applies to flying. You want to tell people to put on their seatbelt. You want to give them a safety briefing. Every time. Why? Because then at least they think you know what you're doing ;).

    5. Watch the weather.

    Probably the most important factor in flying, but also one of the most important factors in life. Watch the weather inside you and outside you. What are you feeling? What are you thinking? Don't judge it. Just watch it. You can plan your route in life as you traverse the weather. Sometimes the season might call for growth. Sometimes it might call for rest. Be in tune with your weather, just as you're in tune with the weather outside.

    6. Repeat back what the other person says.

    Air Traffic Control has succint communication, but after every command, the pilot repeats back what they heard. For instance, "Southwest 384, desecend to 5000ft." "Descend 5000ft, Southwest 384." The pilot acknowledges the direction to decend. That way, there is no room for miscommunication or misunderstanding. Same in your relationships...understand what the other person is telling you. Repeat back what they say. Am I understanding you correctly? Once you have the mutual understanding, you can move forward.

    7. Make friends by sharing what you love.

    I love flying. I invite people to go fly with me all the time. It cements huge bonds. Not only because flight is such a visceral activity that people remember, but also because of my passion for it. Sharing your passions with others is a great way to make friends, connections, and cement bonds.

    8. Automation can be deadly.

    Air France 447. The 737-max. The Tesla Autopilot accidents. Look, software can be lovely. Let's just not lose our own wits in it.

    9. It's okay to be free and privileged.

    Be grateful for it. Flying is a physical act of freedom. You can find freedom, while working "in the system" "within the structure." Find that freedom in life. Whether it's in your job (what kind of flexibility can you create?), in your relationships (how do you thrive in the structure of it?), or whatever it might be. Be grateful for it. Share your freedom and privilege with others and stay humble.

    10. When you're working on a complex task, use a checklist.

    Pilots use this for all phases of flight. I believe surgeons do too. It's because there are so many little things, it's easy to miss one, but when you use a checklist - you just go down the list methodically. Apply the methodical method to any complex task or project. Maybe it will help you.

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